The spring is truly a beautiful time of the year. As the days get longer and the weather gets warmer, we see signs of life returning all around us. It is a season that lifts the human spirit. The Church herself in this time celebrates so many of the wonderful aspects of the sacramental life. For many parishes, this is the time of the year when confirmation takes place as we watch young people make their commitment to the Church become real as they are sealed with the gifts of the Holy Spirit. It was a particular joy for me last month when we had confirmation at the parish where I am temporary administrator, Holy Name-St. Gregory the Great on the upper West Side of Manhattan. Welcoming the bishop, and having the confirmandi and their families in the church was such an encouraging experience after all of the challenges we faced in the previous year. For others, baptisms are planned where children enter into this new supernatural life that God gives them in the waters of the font. Many couples choose the beauty of the spring to celebrate their marriage as they begin their lives together with the help of the Holy Spirit to guide them as they embark on this next chapter. Perhaps most common in the spring is the celebration of first Holy Communion. For priests, this is a particularly profound event as we are able to give these young people the Lord for the first time in the Blessed Sacrament. Last, but of course not least, is the celebration of the ordination to the priesthood as well. For priests this is a wonderful, yet exhausting, time of the year. It is a great opportunity for us to rejoice with our people as they celebrate these milestones in their faith.
It seems completely appropriate that these celebrations of our faith life usually occur in the month of May, dedicated to our Blessed Mother, as we are aware of her prayers and intercession for all of her children. Now, in June, we celebrate a month dedicated to the Precious Blood of Jesus, with an emphasis on the love of his Sacred Heart. The entire sacramental life of the Church, and the saving graces that come from it, spring from the inexhaustible font of our Lord's love, a love that was shown by the shedding of his Precious Blood upon the cross, and a love that continues to be seen in the icon of the Sacred Heart. What a gift it is to be a priest and put our people in direct contact with the love of the Sacred Heart in the sacraments of the Church, especially in the Eucharist. I am reminded of the words of St. John Vianney, the patron saint of parish priests, who once remarked, “The priesthood is the love of the heart of Jesus.”
Perhaps it is easy for us priests, amid all of the responsibilities and obligations of ministry, to lose sight of what an incredible privilege it is for us to walk with our people in their sacramental journey and make available to them the saving mysteries of our Lord’s great love. I am reminded of this when I ask a discerner what attracts them most to the priesthood and the response is often about celebrating the sacraments, especially confession and the Eucharist. These men who are discerning a vocation and looking forward to one day perhaps sharing in the priesthood understand what a gift and blessing it is for us to stand at the altar or sit in the confessional. As I come to the end of my time as vocation director, I thank the Lord for the opportunity to accompany these men in their journey and be reminded myself of the blessing of the priesthood and the grace of being a minister of God's Presence and His love, which find their source in His Sacred Heart.